For much of her professional life, Wynonna Judd's attitude might be described as "fake it 'til you make it." That attitude helped her launch a solo career after her mother's illness abruptly ended one of country music's most successful duos, the Judds.
It helped her deal with the death of a father she never knew -- and raise her two children following a bitter divorce. But when it came to her weight, pretending she did not have a problem fooled no one, including herself. In her new, strikingly outspoken memoir, "Coming Home to Myself," she has a change of attitude and is finally ready to confront what she now feels is an addiction to food.
"We can be in denial. I didn't have a lot of mirrors around my house. I just kept, you know, getting clothes bigger. I am as addicted to it as someone trying to come off a drug," she said.
Turning to Food to Ease Loneliness
Judd said food was her comfort when she was younger and on the road with her mother.
"My mama's in the next room so I couldn't party. Couldn't go out, you know, on a date. So I stayed in my room and room service came to me. It healed me through that lonely time. So I maybe didn't understand that food was that, you know, destructive. I think it was more of a soothing thing," she said.
Onstage, the Judds' sweet harmonies earned them six gold records. But in her new book, Judd reveals that backstage was a very different tune. Mother and daughter fought bitterly over just about everything.
Still, after her much publicized falling out with her mother, Judd longed for her mom and said she turned to food comfort her in her loneliness. "Those were some of the best years of my life, I just didn't know it back then. And when it was gone it was like, 'Well, what am I going to do now?' " she said.
What she did was immediately hit the road to promote her new solo album. The endless touring was exhausting. As her popularity grew, so did her loneliness, her depression and her weight.
"You come in from a really long day, you want a casserole. You don't want a salad," she said. "No, we spend our days longing for the foods we had growing up. Like the other day I made a fried baloney sandwich and I thought, OK, I'm still 10 years old."
A Wake-Up Call
Judd's addiction to food, which she traces back to childhood, would first reach a crisis point as she was taking her own kids to a movie premiere. Judd's doctor called to tell her she should be hospitalized because her cholesterol level was so high.
"That was a wake-up call and yes, that was the first moment ... that aha moment, when the light bulb goes off and you realize, 'OK, maybe I need to do something about this,'" she said.
She scheduled herself for gastric bypass surgery, but then decided against it.
While she says she struggles with the fact that the surgery would have brought her to a healthier weight by now, she feels her decision has led to some important insight.
"Honestly, I am excited about all that I'm learning right now," Judd said. "And I wouldn't have had the chance to get in there and figure out all that I'm figuring out."
She says that includes figuring out how to have better relationships with her sister and mother.
She knows her sister and mother are concerned about her health and eating habits, but said she still wants to show "who's boss" by grabbing an extra piece of cake. "I'm trying and I fail and I succeed. The bottom line is, I'm trying really hard. A lot's happened in our family. I'm still medicating with food," she said.
And it continues to be a struggle.
But Judd seems to be up for the challenge. In a year, she says, she'd be happy to have made progress on the simplest things.
"You know, tie my shoes without holding my breath or -- I would like to be able to do that," she said. "And everybody thinks, oh, that's really funny, but the fact is it's the little things. I'd like to be able to wake up and just go, 'I'm good enough and I'm pretty enough' and to really believe that."